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Is School Work Causing Computer Vision Syndrome in Your Child?

Eye health tips for students from our Midland eye doctor

The start of fall means back-to-school for kids of all ages – and our team at Vision Health Specialties wishes everyone a smooth and successful return to the classroom!

When your child enters school after a summer of outdoor fun, many of the summer’s vision hazards are left behind. Yet, that doesn’t mean all eye health risks are eliminated! Nowadays, the majority of learning is computer based – exposing students’ eyes to the pain and dangers of blue light and computer vision syndrome. Fortunately, a variety of helpful devices and smartphone apps are available to block blue light and keep your child’s vision safe and comfortable.

To help you safeguard your child’s vision for the upcoming semesters and the long term of life, our Midland optometrist explains all about computer vision syndrome and how to prevent it.

Symptoms of computer vision syndrome

It’s smart to familiarize yourself with the signs of computer vision syndrome. If your child complains about any of these common symptoms, you can help prevent any lasting vision damage by booking an eye exam with our Midland eye doctor near you:

  • Eye irritation and redness
  • Neck, shoulder and back pain
  • Blurry vision
  • Dry eyes, due to reduced blinking
  • Headaches

Basics of blue light

Students spend endless hours in front of digital screens, be it a computer monitor, tablet, or smartphone. There is homework to be done, research to be conducted, texting with friends, and movies and gaming during downtime. All of this screen time exposes your child’s eyes to blue light.

Many research studies have demonstrated that flickering blue light – the shortest, highest-energy wavelength of visible light – can lead to tired eyes, headaches, and blurry vision. Additionally, blue light can disrupt the sleep/wake cycle, causing sleep deprivation and all the physical and mental health problems associated with it. As for your child’s future eye health, blue light may also be linked to the later development of macular degeneration and retinal damage.

How to avoid computer vision syndrome

Our Midland eye doctor shares the following ways to block blue light and protect against computer vision syndrome:

  • Computer glasses, eyeglasses lenses treated with a blue-light blocking coating, and contact lenses with built-in blue light protection are all effective ways to optimize visual comfort when working in front of a screen. These optics reduce eye strain and prevent hazardous blue-light radiation from entering the eyes.
  • Practice the 20-20-20 rule; pause every 20 minutes to gaze at an object that’s 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This simple behavior gives eyes a chance to rest from the intensity of the computer or smartphone screen, preventing eye fatigue.
  • Prescription glasses can be helpful when using a computer for long periods – even for students who don’t generally need prescription eyewear. A weak prescription can take the stress off of your child’s eyes, decreasing fatigue and increasing their ability to concentrate. Our Midland optometrist will perform a personalized eye exam to determine the most suitable prescription.
  • Moisturize vision with eye drops. One of the most common symptoms of computer vision syndrome is dry eyes, namely because people forget to blink frequently enough. Equip your child with a bottle of preservative-free artificial tears eye drops (available over the counter) and remind them to blink!
  • Blue light filters can be installed on a computer, smartphone, and all digital screens to minimize exposure to blue. A range of helpful free apps are also available for download.
  • Limit screen time for your child each day, or encourage breaks at least once an hour. Typically, the degree of discomfort from computer vision syndrome is in direct proportion with the amount of time your child spends viewing digital screens.
  • Set the proper screen distance. Younger children (elementary school) should view their computer at a half-arm’s length away from their eyes, just below eye level. Kids in middle school and high school should sit about 20 – 28 inches from the screen, with the top of the screen at eye level.

For additional info, book a consultation and eye exam at Vision Health Specialties

When you and your child meet with our Midland eye doctor, we’ll ask questions about your child’s school and study habits to provide customized recommendations on the most effective ways to stay safe from computer vision syndrome and blue light. Our optometrist stays up-to-date with the latest optic technologies and methods to prevent painful vision and eye health damage from using a computer, so you can depend on us for contemporary, progressive treatment.

School and Vision: 2 Important Partners

It’s February and that means we’re smack in the middle of winter, which is also the middle of the school year. It’s the season when kids fervently hope for snow days and parents hope they don’t happen. As we head towards the second half of the school year, you’ve probably attended a few parent-teacher conferences and discussed your child’s education.

Like peanut butter and jelly, school and vision go hand-in-hand. Both are important partners in ensuring that children excel in their learning, extracurricular activities, and relationships with their peers.

ADD/ADHD and Vision Problems

Did you know that certain vision problems can mask themselves as behavioral or learning difficulties? In fact, education experts often say that 80% of learning is visual.

A 3rd grader may be misdiagnosed with ADD or ADHD if they display behaviors like being fidgety, having difficulty focusing or concentrating, or having a short attention span. These symptoms may not always be purely behavioral; they could be vision-related. A child who experiences blurry vision, suffers from headaches or eyestrain, or itches their eyes excessively may, in fact, have a refractive error such as myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness) or astigmatism, or another condition such as convergence insufficiency.

Undiagnosed myopia, for example can cause these same types of behaviors that are commonly attributed to attention disorders. That’s because if your child has to squint his eyes to see the board clearly, eyestrain and headaches are bound to follow. Struggling with reading or writing is common too. Other vision disorders can cause similar behavior patterns. An additional challenge is that kids don’t always express their symptoms verbally, and often they don’t even realize that other people see differently than do.

This can also impact kids emotionally. When they feel like they’re not keeping up with their peers or their learning is inferior in some way, this may lead the child to act out verbally or even physically.

Distinguishing between colors is an important skill for early childhood development. While color vision deficiency affects both children and adults, kids, in particular, can experience difficulty in school with this condition. Simply reading a chalkboard can be an intense struggle when white or yellow chalk is used. When a teacher uses colored markers on a whiteboard to draw a pie chart, graph, or play a game, this can be a difficult experience for a young student with color blindness. A child, his or her parents, and teachers may even be unaware that the child is color blind.

What School Vision Screenings Miss

Many parents believe that an in-school vision screening is good enough. However, an eye chart test only checks for basic visual acuity, so kids with blurry or double vision, for example, may be able to pass a vision screening while still struggling to read, write, or focus on the board. Children who have problems with their binocular vision, which means using both eyes together to focus on something, can pass the screening when they use just one eye to read the chart.

Studies show that a whopping 43% of children who have vision problems can successfully pass a school vision screening. This means that the vision test may fail to detect the more subtle but significant and treatable vision problems. Early detection and diagnosis is critical to maintaining healthy eyes. That’s why it’s so important to make eye care a part of your child’s healthcare routine.

The Importance of Yearly Eye Exams

The #1 way to do this is to schedule annual eye exams. Your eye doctor can perform a comprehensive pediatric eye exam to check visual acuity, visual clarity, binocular vision, and screen for any eye diseases or vision problems.

Because children develop so rapidly at different ages, it’s essential that eye exams are done at specific stages of their young lives. In fact, The American Optometric Association (AOA) recommends regular eye exams at age 6 months, 3 years, before school starts, and every 2 years thereafter.

Simply being aware of the tendency to associate a child’s learning issues with a learning disability or attention disorder instead of an underlying vision problem is critical for parents and educators. Both are partners in a child’s education and they must work together to ensure that each child gets the health care and attention he or she needs.

If you notice changes in your child’s schoolwork, behavior with friends or in sports or other after-school activities, it may be time to schedule an eye exam. You’ll want to be sure that your kids have all the tools they need to succeed in school and beyond.

Is Too Much Screen Time Dangerous For Your Kids?

Screen Time Pros and Cons

Whether it is homework, email, gaming, chatting with friends, searching the web or watching Youtube, kids these days seem to have an endless number of reasons to be glued to a screen. Many parents out there are wondering how bad this can be for their kids and whether they should be limiting screen time.

There are certainly benefits to allowing your kids to use digital devices, whether it is educational, social or providing a needed break. However, studies show that excessive screen time can have behavioral consequences such as irritability, moodiness, inability to concentrate, poor behavior, and other issues as well. Too much screen time is also linked to dry eyes and meibomian gland disorders (likely due to a decreased blink rate when using devices), as well as eye strain and irritation, headaches, back or neck and shoulder pain, and sleep disturbances. Some of these computer vision syndrome symptoms are attributed to blue light that is emitted from the screens of digital devices.

Blue light is a short wavelength, high-energy visible light that is emitted by digital screens, LED lights and the sun. Studies suggest that exposure to some waves of blue light over extended periods of time may be harmful to the light-sensitive cells of the retina at the back of the eye. When these cells are damaged, vision loss can occur. Research indicates that extreme blue light exposure could lead to macular degeneration or other serious eye diseases that can cause vision loss and blindness. Studies show that blue light also interferes with the regulation of the the body’s circadian rhythm which can have a disruptive impact on the body’s sleep cycle. Lack of quality sleep can lead to serious health consequences as well.

Beyond these studies, the long term effects of blue light exposure from digital devices are not yet known since this is really the first generation in which people are using digital devices to such an extent. While it may take years to fully understand the impact of excessive screen time on our eyes and overall health, it is probably worth limiting it due to these preliminary findings and the risks it may pose. This is especially true for young children and the elderly, who are particularly susceptible to blue light exposure.

How to Protect the Eyes From Blue Light

The first step in proper eye protection is abstaining from excessive exposure by limiting the amount of time spent using a computer, smart phone or tablet – especially at night, to avoid interfering with sleep. Many pediatricians even recommend zero screen time for children under two.

The next step would be to reduce the amount of blue light entering the eyes by using blue light blocking glasses or coatings that deflect the light away from the eyes. There are also apps and screen filters that you can add to your devices to reduce the amount of blue light being projected from the screen. Speak to your eye doctor about steps you can take to reduce blue light exposure from digital devices.

As a side note, the sun is an even greater source of blue light so it is essential to protect your child’s eyes with UV and blue light blocking sunglasses any time your child goes outside – even on overcast days.

The eyes of children under 18 are particularly susceptible to damage from environmental exposure as they have transparent crystalline lenses that are more susceptible to both UV and blue light rays. While the effects (such as increased risk of age-related macular degeneration) may not be seen for decades later, it’s worth it to do what you can now to prevent future damage and risk for vision loss.

 

10 Tips to Teach Children About Eye Safety

girl in funny glasses

It is important to teach your children about eye health and safety from a young age. This includes awareness about how your overall health habits affect your eyes and vision as well as how to keep your eyes safe from injury and infection. Starting off with good eye habits at a young age will help to create a lifestyle that will promote eye and vision health for a lifetime.

10 Eye Health Tips for All:

  1. Eat right. Eating a balanced diet full of fresh fruits and vegetables (especially green leafies such as kale, spinach and broccoli) as well as omega-3s found in fish, such as salmon, tuna and halibut, help your eyes get the proper nutrients they need to function at their best.
  2. Exercise. An active lifestyle has been shown to reduce the risk of developing a number of eye diseases as well as diabetes – a disease which which can result in blindness.
  3. Don’t Smoke. Smoking has been linked to increased risk of a number of vision threatening eye diseases.
  4. Use Eye Protection. Protect your eyes when engaging in activities such as sports (especially those that are high impact or involve flying objects), using chemicals or power tools or gardening. Speak to your eye doctor about the best protection for your hobbies to prevent serious eye injuries.
  5. Wear Shades. Protect your eyes from the sun by wearing 100% UV blocking sunglasses and a hat with a brim when you go outside. Never look directly at the sun.
  6. Be Aware: If you notice any changes in your vision, always get it checked out. Tell a parent or teacher if your eyes hurt or if your vision is blurry, jumping, double or if you see spots or anything out of the ordinary. Parents, keep an eye on your child. Children don’t always complain about problems seeing because they don’t know when their vision is not normal vision. Signs of excessive linking, rubbing, unusual head tilt, or excessively close viewing distance are worth a visit to the eye doctor.
  7. Don’t Rub! If you feel something in your eye, don’t rub it – it could make it worse or scratch your eyeball. Ask an adult to help you wash the object out of your eye.
  8. Give Your Eyes a Break. With the digital age, a new concern is kids’ posture when looking at screens such as tablets or mobile phones. Prevent your child from holding these digital devices too close to their eyes. The Harmon distance is a comfortable viewing distance and posture – it is the distance from your chin to your elbow. There is concern that poor postural habits may warp a child’s growing body. Also, when looking at a tv, mobile or computer screen for long periods of time, follow the 20-20-20 rule; take a break every 20 minutes, for 20 seconds, by looking at something 20 feet away.
  9. Create Eye Safe Habits. Always carry pointed objects such as scissors, knives or pencils with the sharp end pointing down. Never shoot objects (including toys) or spray things at others, especially in the direction of the head. Be careful when using sprays that they are pointed away from the eyes.
  10. Keep Them Clean. Always wash your hands before you touch your eyes and follow your eye doctors instructions carefully for proper contact lens hygiene. If you wear makeup, make sure to throw away any old makeup and don’t share with others.

By teaching your children basic eye care and safety habits you are instilling in them the importance of taking care of their precious eye sight. As a parent, always encourage and remind your children to follow these tips and set a good example by doing them yourself.

Of course don’t forget the most important tip of all – get each member of your family’s eyes checked regularly by a qualified eye doctor! Remember, school eye screenings and screenings at a pediatrician’s office are NOT eye exams. They are only checking visual acuity but could miss health problems, focusing issues and binocularity issues that are causing health and vision problems.